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OPINION -- 'Shaping a Changing World'

February 7, 2019 -- In her State of the City Address Wednsday night -- "Shaping a Changing World" -- Mayor Gleam Davis looked at Santa Monica's immediate and long-term future.

Good evening Santa Monica! I’m so pleased to be here tonight to speak with you about how our City’s doing and how, by working together, we can shape Santa Monica’s future.

Like any year, 2018 was filled with both triumphs and learning opportunities. But as John F. Kennedy said: “Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

So I want to resist the temptation to focus on our past, both good and bad, and, instead, I’d like to spend a few moments to talk about Santa Monica’s future– both the obstacles we face and our plans to overcome them and build a thriving and resilient Santa Monica.

As we consider our ten-year financial forecast, we see that we are going to have to focus on maintaining a diverse and robust local economy while we rethink the way we the City allocates resources and deals with the looming pension liability that threatens every city in California.

We must transition from being a government mired in the old ways of doing things and evolve to become a customer-centered, agile, and accessible 21st Century Government.

Two weeks ago, my Council colleagues and I spent a Saturday afternoon discussing where to focus our resources and efforts in the coming years. With community involvement, we agreed on these six areas:

* Affordability

* Keeping Neighborhoods Safe

*Reducing Homelessness

* Climate change

* Mobility and Access

* Engaged and Thriving Community

We also elected to adopt overarching city values that will inform all the work we do. They are: Accountability, Equity, Inclusion, Resilience, Safety and Stewardship.

Let’s briefly discuss these Budget Framework priorities one by one.


Today, we find ourselves in a situation where the California Dream is beyond the financial reach of too many people.

California is in the midst of a housing crisis.

This is the major driver for rising rents and soaring housing prices.
Santa Monica is not immune from the pernicious effects of this housing crisis and we are doing everything we can to address it.

Santa Monica protects current renters with one of the most aggressive Rent Control laws in the state. We also recently increased the relocation fees that must be paid to renters who are being forced out of their homes.

We are incentivizing the construction of new housing, especially deed-restricted affordable housing.

We are using a variety of measures, including direct housing subsidies, to support our most vulnerable populations, particularly our seniors, who deserve to age in place with dignity. We also are creating specialized zoning rules for the Pico neighborhood to protect that neighborhood’s diverse character.

Are these measures enough? Absolutely not. As we enter the new year, we plan to look for more ways to protect existing residents, build more housing near transit, and look for innovative ways to retain our diverse population.


Crime is a very real issue in our community. As mayor, I believe that every member of our community should feel safe while they are in their homes, at their place of work or enjoying our public spaces.

While Santa Monica remains a relatively safe city, we know that crime was up 8.8% in 2018. I’m pleased to share that we began 2019 with a 12.5% dip in crime – and we are committed to maintaining this momentum.

Let me assure you our new Police Chief Cynthia Renaud is tackling crime systematically:

* Our police are more visible; we’re hiring more officers, and we are moving more officers onto foot patrol;

* Our police are encouraging the community to report crime when it happens, and they are analyzing data to inform where and how to deploy resources; and

* Our police are working closely with community groups and businesses to create a safer, more crime-resistant environment.

We know this issue is important to everybody and, in the spirit of accountability, Chief Renaud will continue to share the results of these and other measures throughout the year.


We know that almost 1000 people in Santa Monica are experiencing homelessness. And we know it is a concern to you all.

Our approach for reducing homelessness includes:

* Launching a team of experts that engage with unsheltered residents in our city and work to get them the services so they need.

* Piloting several get togethers in our Public Library to connect people to services. This worked so well that soon, we will have a full-time social worker in our Libraries who will be a reliable, accessible resource that will connect people with resources.

* Creating We Are Santa Monica. As you saw in the video, this outreach initiative uses real stories of real people who are making a difference in Santa Monica to raise awareness about the challenge of homelessness and encourage public involvement in solutions that will move the dial and ultimately help those in our community that need it the most.


Climate change is real. From the ravages of fires in California to the Polar Vortex in the east, the evidence that we are threatened by shifts in our climate is undeniable.

Here in Santa Monica, the threat is to our very identity as a beach city -- without a dramatic decline in greenhouse gas emissions, 2/3rds of Santa Monica’s beaches will disappear by 2100.

We continue to be on the leading edge of addressing climate change:

*Beginning this month, through our membership in the Clean Power Alliance, our residents and businesses will have the opportunity to get 100% of their energy from non-nuclear, renewable sources;

*We have committed to reducing our reliance on all fossil fuels and, as part of that commitment, we are moving towards electrification of our Big Blue Bus Fleet; and
We now require new single-family construction to be energy neutral.

But we can do more. One of the most effective things any community can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is build housing so that people can walk, bike, scooter, or take affordable and efficient transit to their jobs.

So, as we think about future development, we need to ask ourselves, will it reduce our dependence on the automobile?

We also are stewards of our environment in other ways: through our expanded plastics ban, our commitment to being water self-sufficient, and our intent to divert 90% of our waste from landfills. With these and other pro-environment efforts we are demonstrating that a city can protect the environment and still be economically successful.


We know traffic and pedestrian safety are problem that vex Santa Monicans. Solving traffic will require that we make public transit a better alternative to the personal auto and that we make our streets safer for other modes of transit such as walking.

I am pleased to report that, last year, we had no pedestrian fatalities. And we increased the visibility of our green lanes with vibrant paint and other improvements. But this is not enough.

In the future, we will continue to cultivate a culture of using transit, walking, and & biking amongst our youth and their parents through Safe Routes to School programming.

We are in the midst of a shared mobility pilot program that includes both education and enforcement and that is encouraging safer use of scooters. We also have made great strides in creating designated spaces where dockless mobility devices can be rented and dropped off.

But we still need to look for innovative ways to move around our city and the region. Traffic is a regional problem. We have to work with our regional partners to make transit more convenient and more accessible. We need to build more protected green lanes where people can feel safe riding bikes or scooters.

Let me be clear. Our goal is not to take away anyone’s automobile. But when we drive, we need to admit that we are the traffic we hate so much. That is why we want everyone to have multiple mobility options that will allow each of us to reduce or eliminate our dependence on traffic-causing automobiles.


What does an engaged and thriving community look like?

It’s a place where residents feel connected to each other and to their local institutions. We clearly need to work on this.

Engagement is crucial. We know that there is a widespread mistrust of government. If we are to rebuild this trust, we need to do a better job of meeting our constituents where they are. We must provide better opportunities for the exchange of ideas and concerns between City Hall and you.

We also need to do a better job of communicating not just what we are doing but why we are doing it. You may not agree with all our decisions, but you have a right to know the basis for those decisions.

In the coming year, with the much-needed revamp of the City’s website, I hope we can improve constituent interaction, demonstrate greater transparency, and provide an opportunity for everyone to see for herself what the City is doing. We also intend to have more community conversations which will give you all an opportunity to have in-depth discussions about what’s happening in Santa Monica.

Thriving certainly depends on economic and educational opportunity. But all the research shows that it also means that we must connect to each other and our community in more meaningful ways.

Santa Monica is recognized throughout the world as a Sustainable City of Wellbeing. This is not just a pie in the sky idea about a vague notion of happiness. As Santa Monica demonstrated when it won the Bloomberg Philanthropies grant for creating our Wellbeing Index, wellbeing can be measured.

What can be measured, can be improved. And the world is noticing. Just this week, Santa Monica was named a finalist for the 2019 Wellbeing City Award.

Our Wellbeing index is showing some improvements including gains in kindergarten readiness and a reduction in the sense of isolation among our older residents. But we are committed to doing more.

Last year, we awarded our first series of microgrants--$500 to community members who were interested in creating opportunities to build connections in their communities. These microgrants brought a neighborhood together around a pop-up playground on a vacant lot and introduced members of different generations and ethnic groups to each other.

We also began the Pico Wellbeing Project which is focusing efforts and resources in the areas that the data indicates the greatest need.

In the coming year, we will continue this work and look for more innovative ways to improve our collective and individual wellbeing so we can thrive.

Thank you for letting me share with you our priorities and plans for the next few years. Before I go, I want to let you know that embedded in these budget framework priorities is a lofty vision of our city. And realizing this vision will be a team effort and each and every one of you are part of the team.

So, team Santa Monica, what can you do? Stay connected, and not just online. Our resident survey shows that many people get their news from social media. But as I hope we all know, not everything on Facebook, Twitter, or many websites is true. And much of what we see there is meant to appeal to our worst instincts, not our better angels.

Instead, make a personal connection. Turn to the person sitting beside you and appreciate the effort that you all made to come here tonight.

Create opportunities and space for constructive dialogue. Curiosity and listening with an open mind are key to understanding and progress.

When we listen to others, we learn. We grow. It’s fine to have an opinion but remember JFK’s observation that “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Embrace change. ou may not like it, but you cannot avoid it. We cannot reconstruct the Santa Monica of 1950; we need to plan for the Santa Monica of 2050 and beyond.

And finally, let’s be solution oriented. It’s OK to complain. I know things aren’t perfect. But complaining only identifies the problem. Help us do the harder but more satisfying work of bringing real solutions to the difficult problems we all face.

As your Mayor, I pledge to work towards this goal and I ask that you join me in this effort. And as I opened with a quote from JFK, I’d like to end with one:

“Things do not happen. They are made to happen.”

If we work together, it’s within our power to make 2019 a productive year that sees profound and positive change. We truly will be a sustainable city of wellbeing.

Thank you!

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